Stand and stare

Sitting still, we allow much to come up to our consciousness.

A young friend returned recently from a yoga retreat, glowing in health and spirits. The schedule she had to follow was far removed from the one she was used to in bustling Mumbai.

The building in which the programme was conducted stood isolated in wooded surroundings. Activities started early every morning. A cold bath was succeeded by prayers, exercises and satsang. Only two meals were served each day and the menu catered largely to health and certainly not to taste.

The inmates had only two hours of free time and that was between six and eight in the evening. The inhospitable surroundings made it impossible for any of them to venture out. Nine o’clock found everyone in bed. To begin with, my friend found the schedule extremely taxing. The cold shower was hardly refreshing, the food was unappetising and the exercises exhausting. Gradually however a welcome change manifested itself. Her body responded well to the changes and her craving for tasty but unhealthy food started diminishing.  The strict routine was making a new person of her.

Fascinated by her account, I asked her to encapsulate in a few words what she had learnt and gained from this rigorous routine. After hardly a minute’s thought, she answered, ‘Doing nothing.’ At this point, we were joined by others and the topic of conversation changed.

Her words however lingered in my mind, raising numerous questions. What is ‘doing nothing’, I asked myself. More importantly, why this in particular and how could it be of help?  In this rat race we call life, would it not be suicidal to sit back idly? Surely doing nothing is another name for sheer laziness. As I believed, success requires that we not only do more all the time but also want to do more.

When we were alone together once again, I reopened the subject. ‘Doing nothing,’ she explained, was not to be equated with idleness. It was rather a ‘still point’, a hiatus from the rush and tumble of routine work. It allows you to sit still and immerse yourself in reflection. It is neither running away from activity nor embracing it fiercely and with grim purpose. It is, she pointed out, in these moments of stillness, peace and quiet that we are able to unlatch the windows to our inner selves. Sitting still, we allow much to come up to our consciousness. We are able to recognise what is important in our lives and what is not. Our fears and our hopes take on clearer form and shape, enabling us to face them better. Best of all, this little span of time sets us free – to be alone with our own thoughts and, what is more, to listen to the sounds and songs of Nature.

My questions had been answered and answered fully and the wise words of the poet who had spent a good deal of time ‘doing nothing’ came back to mind, ‘What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’

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